The Los Angeles Lakers were able to capture the 2017 Las Vegas Summer League Championship despite not having the tournament MVP, Lonzo Ball, in the finals. Kyle Kuzma took home game MVP honors while putting up 30 points and 10 rebounds in a Lakers victory over the Portland Trail Blazers, he was also named Second Team All-Tournament.
While winning games in the NBA in July does not necessarily correlate to wins in the regular season, the Lakers hope their Summer success will mimic the success of the 2013 and 2015 Summer League champs – Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs.
Winning a championship is a nice feeling for this young Lakers team, even if it is just a Summer League title. Without a first-round pick in 2018, the team has no reason to tank and should focus on continuing their winning ways.
Rookie point guard Lonzo Ball, who sat out the championship game with calf tightness, should be vital to the team’s success this season. The 19-year old started off slowly in Vegas, going 1-15 from the field in his first game against the Los Angeles Clippers, but played well throughout the rest of the tournament.
He recorded the first ever triple-double in Summer League history with 11 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in a losing effort again the Boston Celtics in his second game. Ball then sat a game with a groin injury but followed up his absence with a 36 point, 11 assist game in a one-point victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Zo’ show continued in his fourth game, recording the second ever triple-double in Summer League history with 16 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists. The rest of the Lakers’ team responded to his leadership and pace of play, outing the Brooklyn Nets in the next round 115-106.
A match-up with the ninth overall pick Dennis Smith Jr. went Ball’s way in the semi-finals. The Laker guard recorded his fourth double-double of the tournament by half-time and he sat the entire fourth quarter while watching his team move onto the finals.
Promising play from the recently signed guard, Alex Caruso, propelled the Lakers whenever Ball was out of the line-up. His length, defensive ability and craftiness should allow him to make plays in the NBA during the games he is called up. Caruso is currently signed to one of the two slots the Lakers have available for two-way contract players.
Caruso scored 15 points and dished out nine assists in the championship game. Two other guards played well enough down the stretch to throw their name in for the other two-way contract.
Former D-League MVP Vander Blue and rookie Matt Thomas from Iowa State lit up the scoreboard during the Lakers’ win streak. Each players’ microwave scoring ability would make them worthy of the 17th roster spot.
Blue started alongside Ball for most of the Summer League and played like a veteran. The fourth-year pro averaged 15 points a game and shot 50 percent during the tournament.
Thomas did not play very much at the beginning of Summer but injuries at the guard spot gave him a chance and he didn’t miss it. Missing isn’t something Thomas did a lot of during Summer League, cashing in on 14 of his 16 three-point attempts in the final three games. Streaky shooting ability is a valuable, niche skill to have on the end of the bench.
Undrafted rookie P.J. Dozier was an early candidate, and may still be, for one of the two-way contracts but injuries limited his play in Summer League and he might be better suited to spend a year in the newly re-branded G-League.
If the Lakers do not sign Blue, Thomas or Dozier they would be smart to try and develop them with their G-League affiliate team, the South Bay Lakers.
Again, while winning the Summer League is not anything to boast about, losing games in it would have been concerning. If anything, “Victory in Vegas” just reaffirms the sooth-saying Lavar Ball and his predictions.
The Lakers will look to add a few more player to fill out their roster before heading to training camp.